Pinion Hopes To Finally Get Ambient Activity Tracking Right By Distilling Your Activities To An Essential Few

A new app called Pinion from a Philadelphia-based developer is making its official debut with a soft launch today, taking a new approach to the concept of an app that uses location services to remotely track your activity and give you insight on how you spend your time. Unlike past entrants, including Chronos and Saga, however, Pinion wants to keep things as simple as possible, and hopefully make the software more generally usable for the average consumer, too.

Pinion provides a way to see how your day breaks down, like a “Mint for money,” according to founder Stephen Caldwell. That means that rather than take into account everything you do during the day, Pinion tracks time spent at only the locations you choose, grouping everything else into a bucket “other” category. So you can set it to monitor when you’re at the office, when you’re at home, and when you’re at the gym, but ignore everything else. That would give you a fairly good breakdown of your work/life balance, without getting more granular than necessary.

“The app only aggregates the places you care about – everything else is Other,” Caldwell explained in an interview. “If you only want to know how many hours you spend at work, then that’s the only location you plug in. As such, the app doesn’t check in as frequently as Saga/Chronos and it uses the device’s internal sensors to limit battery usage. There’s a lot that can be done on the phone before the GPS needs to be activated.” Caldwell paid a lot of attention to energy consumption, which has been a concern for apps that monitor activity in the background on the iPhone in the past.

Pinion works a little like a Moves or a Nike+ FuelBand but is aimed at a macro-level view of your life in general instead of something zoomed in on only one component, such as working out. It can also provide more info than just a breakdown of where you spend your time, however; it’ll provide distances travelled during commutes, business trips and vacations so you can see your travel history at a glance.

Pinion is looking to launch as a free app for iPhone on the App Store by the end of March, since Caldwell says the closed beta launch today is intended to get it into shipping shape. The app will be completely free at launch, with plans to introduce paid features like premium analytics and other premium upgrades.

“For instance, you could purchase a map of the U.S. to see which states you’ve visited over a specified period,” Caldwell says of potential revenue options. “Also, we’re looking at additional analytics such as sitting vs. active or awake vs. asleep. There’s a lot that can be done.”

Whatever the future plans for Pinion, it still has to prove that there’s a strong, sizeable market for an app that tracks ambient data in order to provide a user with a record of their comings and goings. That need has been well-established in the health and fitness space, but applied more generally, it has yet to really prove its worth, so Pinion and Caldwell have their work cut out for them.